This present case is Tom Phillips’ initiative. However, we were invited by him last December to submit to the District Judge letters outlining our own situations. Perhaps, in view of the many ideas which have been flying about since the news of the summonses broke, we could first state what this legal action, in our view, is NOT about:
It is NOT an attack on ordinary faithful Mormons. We have been long enough in those ranks to understand their outlook, and their need to believe in something to which they are committing their lives, and we also know only too well the pain of discovering, before we were ready to, the harsh realities of Mormon history.
It is NOT per se an attack on Mormonism as a belief system. We believe that as long as people are first made aware of all of the relevant historical facts which ought to inform their decision making, it becomes solely their choice and their business if they wish to hand over their money, time and efforts to the LDS church. When comprehensive disclosure becomes the normal practice, we will find no fault. We accept that some will choose to believe whatever they will, despite mountains of contrary evidence, and that is their inalienable right.
NOR, as far as we are concerned, is this a personal vendetta against Thomas Monson. We do not know him, and he has never met us. Unfortunately, he happens to be the man at this point who occupies the Church President’s office, and so the summonses have been served upon him. On a personal basis we feel compassion for a man of his advanced years, allegedly not in the best of health, who has recently lost his wife. He has been part of our Mormon culture. We always enjoyed seeing him wiggle his ears to entertain the children. It is a rare gift. We feel no personal animosity towards him.
This is NOT being done out of anger, but out of concern for the many who otherwise, will perhaps one day feel hurt and betrayed, as we presently do.
This action is being taken over what we consider to be unethical and fraudulent practices. Our view is based upon our own experiences, and also those of others within the Mormon community. These practices are approved and implemented by the church hierarchy. Our argument is therefore with that system and whoever is ultimately responsible for implementing such practices.
When members of the church are formally taught from childhood that they will only be with their families in the next life if they pay a minimum of 10% of their income to the church, (tithing being a requirement of entering the temple, where the eternal sealing of families occurs), a pattern of lifelong financial sacrifice is established. We have been taught that all hope of remaining with our loved ones in the next life, is contingent upon a lifelong monetary commitment to the church, and we have been led to believe that the keys to this eternal sealing are vested in the President of the church, currently Thomas Monson, who has authority to grant or dissolve such unions. We have been repeatedly instructed by those in church authority that God requires us to pay tithing before attending to any other household expenditure, such as rent, food, fuel or clothing.
It follows that those who default on payments, start to fear that they will lose their loved ones in the eternities. In certain cases known to us, defaulting tithe-payers descend into a state of despondency, feeling utterly worthless, sometimes losing the respect and confidence of their family members who depend upon them to be obedient to the law of tithing. In many cases obedience is accomplished only through fear and coercion, and the fear is induced by constant reference to and emphasis upon the LDS scriptures. Yet those scriptures themselves fail the tests of historical authenticity. A growing body of evidence, (not disclosed at present to the average tithe-payer), clearly points to them as being the work of Joseph Smith, and his contemporaries, rather than texts of ancient origin.
We contend that anyone faced with making a demanding financial commitment to the LDS church, deserves first to be presented with the full evidence concerning LDS truth claims, so that they may make up their minds without being misled. In the UK, such onerous financial commitments are usually undertaken with appropriate warnings and additional information, otherwise they are deemed “mis-sold”. We believe that any person seeking to join the LDS church in Britain, and all British members wishing to place their trust in the family sealing powers claimed for the LDS temple, first ought to be told, at the very least, why The Book of Abraham is not accepted by the rest of the world as an authentic translation, and why The Book of Mormon has much more in common with a 19th century novel than it has with 1600 year old Native American artefacts; they should also be informed of the real reasons which led to the murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, including the shocking details of Joseph Smith’s polygamous and polyandrous extra-marital unions, in the name of God, with women and girls, some as young as 14.
If, knowing these details, candidates choose to proceed with their baptisms or temple ordinances, none will later be able to claim, as we now do, that they have been deceived. At present however, that is very much not the situation, for most tithe-paying temple-attending members have little or no idea about the true history of their religion, or the profound lack of evidence supporting many of their tenets.
We would like to see the church admit that it has erred grossly for many years in neglecting to address these matters openly and honestly as a matter of routine. We feel it should repent of its failings, apologising for misleading its members in the past, encouraging them in turn to mislead others in their missionary and teaching assignments. We would like to see the church taking steps to educate its members and prospective members fully in accordance with the historical record. We would also like to see full openness and accountability in terms of financial accounting and LDS archival holdings. We would like it to provide sensitive counselling and care for those who lose their faith when they discover the uncomfortable realities. There should be no more labelling of such members as “faithless”, “dissidents” or “apostates” – as though there was something wrong with people having a desire to seek out the truth. Possibly the church leaders could work in combination with those of us who have already trodden this difficult path, so that rehabilitation into the wider world of belief choices would become smoother and less traumatic for spiritual victims of the system.
We are also anxious to see the church offer assurances about the position with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs of members and former members who now feel, as we do, that our tithing and other offerings were obtained by the church under false pretenses. For every pound paid to the church by LDS members in the UK who, (following leadership counsel), have availed themselves of Deeds of Covenant and Gift Aid, £0.20 has been added by the British Taxpayer to the church’s bank accounts. The sum paid out by HMRC in this connection must now amount to tens of millions of pounds. It is understood that in most cases the resulting tax rebates made to individuals, were handed over to the church at its request. We seek an assurance from the church therefore, that in the event that at some future time these payments made by HMRC will be deemed to have been fraudulently obtained, the LDS church will offer immunity to those individuals, and ensure that such sums as were rebated will be returned with the due interest to HMRC.
Finally we hope one day to see a more compassionate church, in which those of us who still retain through habit something of a Mormon identity, may find acceptance within the LDS community, no matter what our perceived deficiencies or peculiarities or orientations might be, being valued simply because we place a high value on objective truth.
7th February 2014